The research is crystal clear: children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every single day.
Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. It also increases the risk of stroke and such other major cardiovascular risk factors as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
Why is exercise or physical activity important for my child?
Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. And physical activity helps with
- controlling weight
- reducing blood pressure
- raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
- improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem
Not only does an active child reduce the risk of developing heart disease, studies show children also do better academically if they get enough physical activity.
How do I promote physical activity in my child?
- Physical activity should be increased by reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone).
- Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents.
- Parents should try to be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.
Try incentivizing children using sticker charts, for example, displayed prominently in your home, to help your child or children view physical activity as something for which they receive positive recognition and a reward.
What if my child is uncoordinated or overweight?
All children, even less-coordinated ones, need to be physically active. Activity may be particularly helpful for the physical and psychological well-being of children with a weight problem.
The American Heart Association recommends:
- All children age 2 and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.
- If your child or children don’t have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.
Activities you can do with your kids:
- Play catch
- Organize a game of tag or capture the flag
- On rainy days, try a workout DVD like kickboxing, yoga or cardio dance
- Jump rope
Learn more about these at-home exercises with kids.